Big names returned with new ideas this month in DC, led by power-restaurateur Stephen Starr, who debuted El Presidente, a killer spot with an excellent, Mexico City-inspired menu. Meanwhile, Ashok Bajaj launches his latest for the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, an eclectic wine-and-food spot earning attention for whimsical pairings (think: an Almond Joy and a glass of Sauternes.) Oh, and you’ll never guess: DC has (another) new food hall. Read on for details.
You may or may not know Stephen Starr by name, but we promise you know his impact on the DC dining scene. The creative force behind St. Anselm and a little place called Le Diplomate just opened El Presidente in the Union Market area (not far from the aforementioned Anselm). The interior incorporates all sorts of motifs — from a tiki bar-inspired section or the stage-like seating — to spice things up for patrons looking to enjoy a night out in stunning fashion. Inspired by Mexico City, the menu offers a wide array of options, including mahi mahi tacos, nachos served on a pizza tray for a better distributed toppings, a raw bar (seafood tower included!) and much more. Cocktails focus on “agave-forward tequila and mezcal.” Easily the splashiest opening of the month, there’s a solid chance El Presidente is already making the rounds in your IG feeds — and will be for quite some time.
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Another month, another food hall. Just a stone’s throw from the White House, The Square is billing itself as “a world of flavor,” bringing together a dozen-plus “chef-driven concepts” for a sort of culinary town square. Spearheaded by Richie Brandenburg (Union Market) and Rubén García (Minibar), The Square will have everything from drinks from Atrium Bar to grilled veggies and meats at Brasa to seafood at Cashion’s Rendezvous. Anchoring the whole project is García’s Casa Teresa, an open-fire Spanish restaurant that honors the grandmother who inspired his love for cooking.
Helmed by executive chef Marco Fossati, who got his start in Italian kitchens before moving to private dining clubs like Harry’s Bar and Anabel’s, the Salamander Grille specializes in handmade pasta, seafood and selected butcher’s cuts. Drinks clock in around $24 and include a martini with a nori-infused vodka and gin, as well as the “Maryland Ave” with tequila, passion fruit liqueur, orange Curacao and more.
Little Blackbird, the latest opening from restaurateur Ashok Bajaj’s Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, comes on familiar territory: the former Bindass/Bardeo space. Patrons will find a diverse, international selection of wines, with offerings from France, South America, Italy, Greece, Israel, Morocco and the U.S. A cheerful, green interior evokes a vineyard, with plush seating and an impressive marbled bar. Food-wise, the menu is just as eclectic as the wines, featuring socca flatbreads, charcuterie, lamb loin, roasted halloumi and more. A series of “playful pairings” are worth a specific shoutout, like cream sherry served with Oreos or a sauv blanc with Cheetos.
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